As the last summer embers burn out, I’m unsteady. I stumble like my inexpert hand struggling to formulate letters after three months worth of avoiding writing.
It’s as if I’ve awoken from a slumber – a slumber of summer, of lights slightly too bright, of winds slightly too warm, and a workbook slightly too bare. There’s a unfamiliar haze, as the date that I would normally return to school on passes, and I remain – waiting. My eyes open gradually, blinking at the harsh light which flows in through windows I shall soon leave behind. My ears prick up to the sound of new familiarities, to ‘plodges’ and ‘pidges’ and other nonsensical Cambridge oddities.
For the entirety of this summer, I’ve felt somewhat windswept. In June I waved goodbye to my childhood home of eighteen years, and entered commuter belt suburbia. It was at my new desk, in my new room, with my new view, and somewhat older and more dilapidated paint splattered floorboards, that I found out the news. It was there that the loathsome ‘conditional’, gained its so longed for prefix. And now, this tempest of change, which has blown my from my childhood, blows me now into the blue of Cambridge.
The journey from my family home to Cambridge is less than an hour; but the evolution is so much greater. Cambridge is part of a world with which I have only recently become acquainted. It is a far cry from my north London state school, where successful Oxbridge applicants from the past twenty years can be counted on one hand, with some fingers to spare. The cacophony of the street – of car engines, of sirens and of three am drunken conversations with Bacardi-drenched aspirations of philosophy – is to be silenced. A new hubbub is to grace my ears, one of the chatter of formal hall, the ringing of bicycle bells and tentative conversation of new classmates.
Image credit: Amelia Oakley
When people describe Cambridge, one label which seems to appear time and time again is that of the curious Cambridge ‘bubble’. I’m not as easily deceived as to think that life shall in any way resemble the rather glorious entrance of Glinda the Good Witch in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. But even reality can’t dampen the magic of Cambridge to the point of extinguishment.
Gowns, great halls, and matriculation – attempting to explain to my friends that I will not actually be attending Hogwarts is indeed now a daily occurrence. Alas as it has for the past eight years, the 1st of September began with deep disappointment as the Hogwarts Express departed Platform 9 and 3/4 without me once again.
Perhaps the enchantment of Cambridge is so tangible for me, as it seems I’m entering this world from a path trodden all too infrequently. For me, the Cambridge bubble is newly formed, fresh from the wand. It envelopes me. From this, my world of oyster cards, bus rides, and all girls secular education, I’m venturing into the world of bedders and chapel songs for the first time, clutching onto my student loan. There’s a new language to learn, old traditions to cherish, and discovering my place in the madness seems to be an adventure to relish.
As my blue is not – and unfortunately never will be – the blue of Ravenclaw. Rather it shall be the blue of Cambridge, yet perhaps more importantly, the red and black of Jesus. Colours which remind me first and foremost of Dennis the Menace. But also of the battle rousing song from Les Misérables, ’Red and Black’.
Not that I am under the delusion that I am about to engage in battle, or a doomed revolution. I’ll not sing of the ‘blood of angry men’ or the ‘colour of despair’. In fact I will refrain from singing entirely – I am terrible. But what does resonate with me is the image of ‘red – a world about to dawn’. A world with skies painted Cambridge blue.